Reports on Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Changes the Debate

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

In February 2005, the Urban Strategies Council released a report entitled “Homicides in Oakland, 2002-2004,” that presented data from the Oakland Police Department on the common characteristics of homicide victims, suspects and the time and location of the homicide. The report also included a section about the parole and probation status of the victims and suspects of homicides. The key findings from this section included that in 2004, approximately 64% of homicide victims were neither on parole nor probation, and 73% of homicide suspects were neither on parole nor probation (see Exhibit 2). This differed from a figure cited by Mayor Jerry Brown in a campaign to implement a curfew for probationers in Oakland. Although a curfew was implemented in spite of the Council’s efforts, top officials at regional parole and probation offices circulated the report to their officers, and the Governor’s office requested an extension of the analysis to earlier years.

Exhibit 2: Chart from the Urban Strategies Council Report “Homicides in Oakland, 2002-2004”.

In April 2005, the Urban Strategies Council (USC) released a supplemental report extending the analysis to earlier years. This supplemental report, “Probationer and Parolee Involvement in Oakland Homicides,” focused on the involvement of parolees and probationers as suspects and victims in homicides from 2002 to 2004. Key findings from this report included that the percentage of homicide victims on probation of parole declined each year from 2002 through 2004.

Following these reports, the Urban Strategies Council obtained access to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about people from Alameda County on parole or probation supervision. These data were used in two reports, including the “Community Report on Parole and Probation in Alameda County.” One of the purposes of the report is to promote better planning for the population returning from incarceration. This is done by presenting, by neighborhood, estimates of the size of the returning population, estimates of the services they would need to access and estimates of the availability of services. The report also presents an estimated cost associated with closing the gap between the availability of services and the excess demand for the services. This approach of quantifying the service availability and gaps is being improved as better data becomes available to strengthen the estimates made in the report. In response to the first release of the report in December 2005, the Probation Chief agreed to release data to the Urban Strategies Council that had previously  been held back.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Junious Williams of the Urban Strategies Council. The Urban Strategies Council is the Oakland partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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